The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

96. Exchange by William Craft and Dr. James Hunt at the Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England 27 August 1863

Black abolitionist activities in Britain regularly commanded the attention of the local reform press and public. On several occasions, blacks were involved in an incident or event that received nationwide publicity. William Craft's participation in the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which convened in Newcastle- upon-Tyne on Wednesday evening, 26 August 1863, was one such event. At the crowded Thursday afternoon session of the Ethnological Section devoted to research on the Negro, Craft criticized papers read by leading British social scientists John Crawfurd and James Hunt. The initial exchange occurred between Hunt and Craft over Hunt's assertion that scientific evidence demonstrated black inferiority. After Crawfurd delivered two detailed papers on the subject of racial amalgamation, Craft rose a second time and informed the audience that, despite Crawfurd's intimations, considerable black-white amalgamation had taken place in the United States. Where blacks were provided equal opportunities with whites, he said, they demonstrated "considerable intellectual ability." He further observed that a wide range of differences existed within each race--a point proven by the fact that "all Englishmen were not Shakespeares." Craft's remarks threw the session into an intense discussion that finally forced the chairman to prematurely adjourn the meeting. The debate reverberated throughout British intellectual circles for some time. Blackett, "Fugitive Slaves in Britain,"58-60; NASS, 26 September 1863 [ 14: 1070]; I, 29 August 1863 [ 14: 1026]; British Association for the Advancement of Science, Proceedings ( London, 1863), 386-410.

On the Physical and Mental Characteristics of the Negro, by Dr. JAMES HUNT , President of The Anthropological Society of London. 1

The author said he had been collecting facts upon the subject for another society; but he was induced to bring it before the Association from the fact that it had never been brought before a scientific audience in England. In discussing the question, he would have nothing to do with anything but the full-blooded, woolly-headed, typical Negro, to the exclusion of the half-breed. The object of the paper was to determine the position which one well-defined race occupies in the genus homo, and the relation or analogy which the Negro race bears to animated nature

-537-

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